Arts and Entertainment

Warmth and wit light up this festive box of delights 

Album: Bobby Womack, The Bravest Man in the Universe (XL)

Bobby dazzles as he returns to his gospel roots

Album: Ralph Vaughan Williams, Archive Recordings of Ralph Vaughan Williams (Albion)

As with many period recordings, there's a hurdle to be overcome with these Fifties recordings of Vaughan Williams works – most notably, the thinness of the sound and the unusual instrumental balance that initially distracts from Alexander Young's noble English tenor.

Land's Edge: a coastal memoir, By Tim Winton

A novelist captures all the glamour, and terror, of the sea

£9m keeps oldest book in Europe

A seventh-century book that lay buried in a saint's coffin for hundreds of years has been saved for the nation.

The Cavendish Hotel

A hotel where the bar is so sweet

The chocolate usually appears on the pillows in your hotel room, but at The Cavendish Hotel on London's Jermyn Street it is the hotel room.

Album: Michael Kiwanuka, Home Again (Polydor)

Michael Kiwanuka continues the folk-soul tradition of Bill Withers and Terry Callier on this debut album. Sensitively produced by The Bees' Paul Butler, it's a pleasant enough handful of easy-going songs, in which the focus on warmth has left them lacking bite.

Album: Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball (Columbia)

You can see what he's driving at: a muscular response to the rapine of the have-nots by the haves of this world. The gun in the drawer, the hanging on to love, the big beat... These are the colours of Springsteen's heart: the blue collar, the red mist, the need for green.

Sport on TV: Arlott recalls golden days of wine, wisdom and song

John Arlott In Conversation With Mike Brearley (BBC4, Wednesday) was not so much a blast from the past as a gentle burr, like a bumblebee on a summer's day. These are the highlights of a series of fireside chats in 1984 between cricket's greatest commentator and its most cerebral captain. But as Brearley points out in quoting another of the game's great wordsmiths, C L R James: "What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?" Arlott was one of the few "renaissance" men of post-war Britain. Arlott knew a lot, basically.

Album: Rebecca Ferguson, Heaven (RCA)

By the law of averages, talent-show telly has to throw up at least one genuinely serviceable talent every ten years or so, and Rebecca Ferguson is surely that one. Although typically, she didn't win the contest, despite the support of high-profile fans such as Adele - who admitted she voted for Ferguson about 80 times.

Album: Eva Cassidy, Simply Eva (Blix Street)

More exhumations, this time giving insight into how the late virtuoso sounded accompanying herself on acoustic guitar.

Album: Foster Manganyi, Ndzi Teke Riendzo No 1 (Honest Jons)

Foster Manganyi is a South African pastor from the Limpopo region, but his devotional music is far from the organ-based hymnal and soulful gospel belters of most Anglo-American Christian music.

The Human Comedy, Young Vic, London

The Young Vic has an admirable tradition of kicking off its year with a production that pulls in the local community to play alongside professionals in the role of chorus – and the venue has had some of its most signal recent successes in this department. It now launches its 40th anniversary season in joyous fashion with the belated British premiere of The Human Comedy. A flawed, affecting show by Hair composer, Galt MacDermot, this piece flopped on Broadway in 1984, but it fits the bill here to an almost parodic degree in its celebration of the healing power of community and the unifying nature of song.

Album: Various artists, The Gospel Truth! (BGP)

Rance Allen's "Showdown" is one of the sexiest, most soulful records ever.

Album: Gideon Kremer,Kremerata Baltica, Hymns and Prayers (ECM)

Hymns and Prayers combines three works from disparate eras whose moods fit together in a pleasingly astringent manner.

Album: The Sojourners, The Sojourners (Black Hen)

For the most part, gospel music remains a sealed world unto itself, only occasionally showing on the radar of popular music when a group draws on secular material by such as Tom Waits, or collaborates with practitioners of other strains of Americana roots-music.

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